Subject: Nearly 50 arrested in East Timor over gang violence

Also XN: Australian troops fight warring gangs in Timor-Leste

Nearly 50 arrested in East Timor over gang violence

JAKARTA, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Forty-seven people have been arrested in East Timor in an operation against gang violence in the tiny territory, the United Nations said in a statement on Thursday.

The arrests were related to rioting and other crimes including homicide, it said. U.N. police seized weapons such as batons, darts, spears, machetes and home-made fire-arms and explosives during the raids.

A two-week investigation had targeted the Bari Piti and Hudi Laran areas of the capital Dili, both strongholds of gangs linked to martial arts groups, the U.N. said. Australia led a force of 3,200 foreign peacekeepers to East Timor in late May after the country descended into chaos following the sacking of 600 mutinous soldiers.

Sporadic gang-related violence has continued in East Timor, the Asia-Pacific region's youngest country, plagued by poverty and high youth unemployment since independence in 2002.

The territory of around a million people voted in a 1999 referendum for independence from Indonesia, which annexed it after Portugal ended its colonial rule in 1975.

It became fully independent in 2002 after a period of U.N. administration.


Australian troops fight warring gangs in Timor-Leste

CANBERRA, Feb 1, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Australian troops have participated in a major armed operation with the United Nations against warring gangs in Timor-Leste in which 50 people have been arrested in the capital of Dili.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio reported Thursday that most of those in custody are members of warring gangs and martial arts groups who have caused havoc in the Southeast Asian nation since it descended into violence last year.

UN police seized dozens of illegal weapons, including home-made explosives and firearms, darts, batons and spears in the operation, in which Australian troops used Blackhawk and Kiawa helicopters.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has again updated its travel advisory for Timor-Leste.

The Australian foreign affairs department said Australians and other foreigners have been caught up in recent incidents of armed robbery and assault, and should reconsider all travel to the country.

It warned continuing incidents of violence could deteriorate further without notice, and that there is an increasing likelihood Australians or Australian interests may be specifically targeted in Timor-Leste.

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